Why are decision so hard?

I made what turned into a hard decision, strangely.

I applied for a job I really wanted, and got it.  So when I went to resign, at one of my jobs, my employer offered me full-time hours at a higher rate than what the new job was offering me (I have worked half-time for four years).  It is comfortable to stay, so I let the new job know.  They countered with a higher rate, which really surprised me.

Every time I thought I picked which one was the “right” decision, I second-guessed myself.  My husband and I have gone back and forth on it for a week now.  I have driven myself half mad over it.  I’ve turned this into the biggest decision of my life, upon which all other things rest.

Neither option was the “obvious” choice.  Both had pros and cons.

I ultimately chose the new job, deciding I need something new, I need to be somewhere I can use my talents and skills as well as learn something new.  Where I am now, I will not be challenged to grow and learn.

I have developed a deep fear of failing, and I know that if I stay where I am, I won’t likely fail.  I know my job too well.  This new job is, well, new.  I could fail.  Maybe I’m not actually worth the money they’re offering me.  Maybe instead of 40 years, I will only be able to give them a year or two of my life.  I don’t know anything about the future.

I feel a deep guilt over leaving my current job–especially since they said they could double my hours since they want to keep me.  And instead I’m going to do something new and unknown instead.

It’s stupid that I’ve spent all afternoon crying about the decision I made.  I didn’t want to see a good opportunity go and regret it forever, like I have about some things.

I hope that a month from now I am glad I made the decision I made.  I have been asking God for guidance and help, and this is what He kept shoving me towards.  So all I can do is leave it up to Him to help me find peace about this decision–especially since starting a new career feels like putting motherhood on hold for a while.  And I neither want to do that, nor do I feel like I can afford to, with my track record.

Changes

On Seraphim’s birthday, I had a job interview.

I was angry about the whole ordeal for a number of reasons.  First, I had already needed to be nearly two hours late to work the week before for a phone interview (my interview was at 9, and the bus schedule didn’t allow me to get to work till 10).  Second, I had been called the day before Seraphim’s birthday asking for an in-person interview for Wednesday or Thursday.  I requested Thursday the 19th, late morning.  It was supposed to be a two-hour interview, which made it worse.  I received an e-mail later that day confirming my interview for Wednesday the 18th.  I nearly cried right then.  I was feeling OK that day, but I had no idea what it would feel like to celebrate Seraphim’s first birthday without him.  I wasn’t so sure I could impress an interviewer on my son’s death day.  As much as I wasn’t sure I even wanted the job, I didn’t want to embarrass myself either.

I cried my eyes out the whole way to work, which was disastrous for the makeup I’d dutifully applied in preparation for my interview.  I don’t wear makeup often, but I know that it is considered important in the job world, so I do my duty once in a while.  Somehow, the mascara and eyeliner did not leave hideous streaks down my cheeks, so I was miraculously saved from looking like a zombie bride for the interview.

I had never had an interview that lasted two hours before.  The mere thought frightened me nearly sleepless the night before.  I was running through my head trying to dig up every single interview question I’d ever been asked and more.  I couldn’t compile a list long enough to necessitate such a long interview.  I’d already done hours of testing for the job, so I knew that wasn’t part of it.

The interview turned out to be five interviews with six different people–apparently getting six CPAs in one room at the same time to perform an interview is too difficult, so they needed to split up the time.  I also figured it was so they could see if I were consistent.  They all asked me about two things that were the same.  What struck me, though, was that this interview was not in front of a panel with a sheet of questions in front of them.  All that each CPA brought with him or her was my resume–my resume that each of them had actually read and had actual questions to discuss with me about my experience and education.

The first question I was asked was not something along the lines of, “Describe your accounting experience,” or “What is your biggest professional failure?” but rather, “I see you have an English minor.  What book are you reading right now?”

Each of them loved that I had an English minor, am currently taking accounting courses, and needed no explanation that my music degree is useful in the “real world” (even in accounting) since they all readily noted that they know music and mathematics to be intrinsically related.

It was a loving, accepting, encouraging interview.  I left feeling like those people would be the people who would understand me in ways that most of my co-workers have not over the years.  It was not the bad experience I feared on Seraphim’s birthday.  It was the opposite.

I cried when I got home and told my husband about the interview.  That is usually a bad sign, but this time it was because I was overwhelmed.  I told him how much the interview made me want the job, but how I don’t feel like I deserve a good job like that.  I am still struggling with getting up in the morning, I still can’t drive, I still have mood swings from hell.  It was a job I wish I could have gotten two years ago, but realistically I knew I would not have been prepared for it then.  The job involves writing financial statements, which I could have learned at any point in my life I am sure, but I know that part of the reason the CPAs liked me is because I told them I have been reading financial statements every week for my online courses.  Would I have been as appealing if I had stared at them blankly when they asked me if I knew what a financial statement was?

I feel sick in my stomach about the job, in part, because they made it clear that the woman who is retiring now–whose place I would be filling–has been there 40 years, and they’re hoping the same for whoever takes her spot.  I can’t commit to decades of service for the sole reason that I can’t commit to living her for decades.  The deep pain and grief we have endured this year have nearly driven us out of the city altogether.  One of our goals was to move away, start over.  In the mean time, I needed a job where I could start over, too.

Accepting this job means committing to living here longer.  I have mixed feelings about that.  Not accepting this job would likely be something I would regret forever.  Yet I am fearful about not being able to drive, about living away from my husband for half of this year if his teaching assignment moves him somewhere else, which is probable.  Yet, there was no guarantee I would find a job where he would be forced to move, so I might have had to stay put anyway.  I might as well be doing a job that uses the skills I have and develops new ones, at a place where I feel like I “belong” for once.

I find myself fearing the silliest things–like giving up the slightly more paid time off I am getting at the law office, and giving up my grandfathered-in pay scale that I was never going to truly benefit from anyway.  I will give up my public employees’ retirement plan I was probably never going to get (and if we stay in the state and I go back to government work at some point, I’d still have it).  I will give up security–knowing how to do my job and having enough seniority to say, “I remember four years ago when we were doing this…” to the newer staff.

I have lost some of my sense of adventure and motivation that I had when I was fresh out of college.  Losing my baby has a lot to do with this.  I like being safe.  I like things staying the way they are.  If I take a new job outside of the system I am currently in, it means not being in my comfort zone, not being in control.  It means failing because I’m going to be learning.

Maybe it will be good for me.  We’ll see.

They still have to do all the background checking and reference checking, because for some reason they do things in opposite order of everyone else.  So it feels surreal and like a “maybe” until then.  I feel the same way about the new job that I felt about having a baby–it was all just, “Maybe this will happen…”

I want to be confident, whether I succeed or fail.  I want to know who I am in the process and be able to cling tightly to that.

Birthday, Memories, and Life Today

Last week was my little Seraphim’s birthday.  I have mostly been holed in, trying to cope with the fact that life goes on around me even if I’m not prepared for it.  I couldn’t even taken the day off for his birthday.  Life keeps moving forward even when it feels like it’s standing still.

I remember so much of the day he was born: being rejected by the local hospital three times the night I started labour since everyone was in disbelief I actually knew what I was talking about, my preterm labour that couldn’t be stopped until I got to the right hospital (only then to need to be restarted), being life-flighted across the state, the amnioinfusion that might have helped my baby make it into the world more safely, the epidural that was almost very bad for both the baby and me, the anxious hours waiting for my son to be born, the anxious hours waiting to find out if he would live.  The hours we got to hold him before he died, and then after.  I remember his red hair and brown eyes that shocked the nurses and doctors so much.

I remember how much my husband cried.  He’s cried in my presence about a handful of times, and always about our children.  Seeing him cry is almost hard in itself because I know he is hurting inexpressibly.

A year ago, I was caught up in the belief that if I made it through the first week, the second week, the first month, then everything was going to be OK.  That that first month would be the very hardest and then I would start climbing up out of the grief.

As it turned out, it was the opposite.

The first month was the best.  I had the brightest outlook on life, the best possible feelings a bereaved parent could ever have about her beloved firstborn’s death.  Then things quickly unraveled.  Much of it was circumstantial, and I firmly think if I would have had a better support system, the rest of the past year would not have been so traumatic.

I didn’t realise that the feelings I had about the strongest grief being over in the first month were shared by those around me.  So though I felt I was handling it well, the lingering grief I clung to shocked those who had initially cared for us and they quickly turned against me.  I wasn’t dealing with grief “according to plan” and that made people uncomfortable.

A year ago, we had numerous people who loved us and would do anything to help us.  Today I cannot say the same.

I wish I had known that earlier so I could’ve prepared better.  All I had seen and read was about how the world comes together to support a broken person in his or her hard time.  I had not heard about loved ones deserting.

I still deal with lingering–sometimes mounting–guilt over doing things that may not have been possible had Seraphim not died.  To make matters worse, others will often feel it their place to remind me, “You have so much free time without kids!” or “If you had a baby, you wouldn’t be doing that!”  I think they are just flippant comments people make to all “childless” people they see–but when they say these things to me, I feel like they are reprimanding me.  I have at times opted to not do something I wanted to because I don’t want it to look like I’m grateful my child is gone.  Other times, I have to justify an outing with, “Well, we would’ve gotten symphony tickets anyway.  Mum would’ve watched the baby, I’m sure.”  I wasn’t prepared to have to justify my every decision like this.

In the wake of the death of my child, I also find my courage and confidence completely stripped.  I am afraid of failure on an almost crippling level.  If I can’t guarantee my perfection at something, I won’t attempt it.  A decision I made today (with much vacillating and many more tears than it needed) that would have been simple and exciting a couple of years ago was almost like choosing my own death it was so difficult.  I wish I could restore my confidence.  I try to look at Seraphim’s picture and say, “I’m doing this for you,” but sometimes not even that helps.  I would be making this decision to make a better life for my family no matter what.  For some reason, even though I desperately need the change so that my every day isn’t wrapped up in my hardest memories, changing what I’m used to for a great unknown has me grieving the stupidest things.  I think this is because change of any kind right now is equally hard.  The smallest thing can be a day-changer and can be on par with something that is actually life-altering in the way it impacts me.

I have felt so much grief on so many levels and in so many ways in the past year, it is hard to reach inside of myself and find the “me” I used to be–the “me” I likely would’ve been with my living son, but for some reason retreated deep, deep inside of me in the aftermath of his death.

So this is how I know that the first year is not really progress.  Not yet.  I wish I could say, “Look at all of the amazing things that happened this past year!”  But I can’t.  I am still missing my son, and I am still missing the life I had and the life I could have had.  The in-between is frankly terrible.  I hope I can find myself again soon.

Another’s Losses

I read this today and it made me weep.  I know it is so easy to say, “Wow, someone went through that, but I certainly never will.”  I try to stop myself from thinking that any more because there is nothing “special” about me that insures me against tragedy.  I’ve experienced enough that I should have figured that out by now!

What struck me in this article was the author’s continued hope for each of her babies.  Out of 12, she has three living children.  Perhaps it helped that her living children were interspersed among the losses, allowing her to grasp onto hope a little tighter, but I don’t really know.  After our losses, I feel in complete despair about ever having a living baby–a “real baby” as I’ve told my husband a few times, since the future babies and the alternate universe babies we always dream about don’t seem real.  Yet, I suppose even with my last pregnancy, I was planning out which day I hoped our baby would be born on, we had picked names, I actually eyed my box of maternity clothes twice (especially since I still have the stomach for them) and we discussed which of “Seraphim’s” clothes would be passed on to the new baby.  We had hope, I guess, but we weren’t telling anyone.  We still haven’t told our parents about the last one.  I think it would be too hard.

So I admire her attitude, with years of loss and reflection to shape her stories of joy and despair.  I hope I can learn that kind of hope again, especially because I fear a lifetime of loss after loss.

http://joyfuldomesticity.com/?p=2477

This isn’t what I expected…

This past year has been full of disappointments, and as far as it looks, it isn’t getting any better.

What I want most right now is to move away, have a new job, meet new people, and play music again–all of the things I can’t do here.

I want to cover up all of the hurt and disappointment that life has brought me thus far.  I want to choose my own adventure and pick the ending, too.

I feel like the death of my child would have been easier if work didn’t feel increasingly like a death sentence, if my friends hadn’t completely abandoned me, if I still had a creative outlet like I used to.  If I weren’t faced daily with the fact that life is not at all how I wanted it to be right now, and I don’t like it.

My purpose in life is to work myself to death and spend my not-at-work hours alone doing absolutely nothing.

Belonging

At the beginning of this month, I read a book that, like most books I read, I picked at almost random from the library catalog, put a hold request on it, then took it home and cracked it open.  (Since I work at a library, it actually makes it harder for me to just go look through the books anymore… I just ask someone else to pick it up for me and put it on the shelf with my name on it so I can grab it on my way out the door.)

http://www.amazon.com/Flight-Sparrow-Novel-Early-America/dp/0451466691

(I can’t insert a picture for some reason… this is why WordPress and I don’t get along sometimes)

Flight of the Sparrow, by Amy Belding Brown is about Mary Rowlandson, who was famously kidnapped by Native Americans in the 17th Century.  She went on to write a book about her experience, but the author felt her story didn’t seem quite right.  She had read some suggestions that Mary may not have written her story alone, and that she may have been expected to say things she didn’t believe because of the strict Puritan culture.  Many of the “morals” of her kidnapping, the author notes, seemed contrived and didn’t line up with what was being said.  So Brown chose to take the story with Mary’s name attached and derive a similar but different story–the one Mary would not have been able to tell, and would not have told.

In the story, Mary goes through the horrifying, traumatic experience of losing her sister, her daughter, and most of her friends in a gruesome attack, and is then taken as a prisoner to the Native American camp.  At the camp, she is no longer the high class and respected preacher’s wife she was in her community–she is a slave.  Her captor is cruel and strict about certain things, but Mary begins to contrast her life in the Native American camp with her life at home in a surprising way.  She notes that while she was a free woman at home, she really had no freedom to speak her mind to her husband or others, or to even leave their front porch without her husband expressed permission–which he did not grant readily.  In the Native American camp, as a slave, as long as her work was done, she is free to wander as she pleased, she could even speak her mind at times (though she still needed to beware her owner’s angry ways).  She feels the solace of being close to nature, even in her deep sorrow.  When she is eventually ransomed back, she finds herself flung back into a world that she doesn’t want, and that doesn’t really want her.  Being a captive made her different.

The book plumbs the depth of sorrow that Mary feels at her experience–she feels loss on levels that I have never felt and hope never to feel.  Watching one’s friends and family literally torn to pieces and burned, and then being sold into slavery to watch your child die–that is the deepest grief I can imagine.  The aftermath of her traumatic experience is so tangible to me, though.  The author captures her emotions–which she must keep bottled inside, more or less, at her husband’s insistence–in such true forms.

More than that, though, the author clearly shows the “otherness” that the former captives felt in their former lives.  One of Mary’s children struggles the most with being returned from captivity, and he often wanders off for days on end to be close to nature again.  Mary’s husband often reprimands his formerly-captive family for their behaviour–which is foreign to him because he did not undergo what they did.  Worst, everyone who would have otherwise been happy to be friends with the minister’s wife withdraws from Mary as if she is “soiled” from her experience–most people assume she was at best bewitched by the Natives, and at worst raped by them.

“Otherness” in literature is usually race, gender, sexual orientation, or similar, but “otherness” is anything that sets out a person from the crowd and makes him or her not “fit in.”  Going through deep grief makes me feel “other.”  Those who fit into the crowd see a woman grieving for a dead child–an experience they don’t understand and don’t want to understand–as almost an affront to their way of living.  This is something that doesn’t fit into their perceptions of the world–this deep grief–and withdrawing from “the other” is easier than incorporating her into their group, is easier than listening to her and not being judgmental of a real experience and real feelings associated with that experience.  I resonated with Brown’s depiction of Mary’s “otherness” and while mine pales in comparison to what she must have felt, it was tangible.

The part that has stayed with me and that I suspect will always stay with me: Mary’s husband is constantly trying to derive meaning from their capture, and his interpretations come across as heartless.  He is constantly explaining the the Native American attacks on the settlements are “God’s chastening hand” on His people–that God is trying to punish sin in the Puritan communities and reform them from their own “heathen” ways–a sort of witch hunt, almost.  Mary expresses that if God is chastening them, it is for their outright cruelty and lack of love for others, not for the suspected sins that he thinks are going on in private.  At one family lecture, as the minister is lecturing his family on “God’s chastening hand” the son angrily replies, “Sometimes things just happen!” and storms out.

Sometimes things just happen.

While I am a firm believer in experiences having meaning and that most experiences require meaning for us to cope with them, this statement is important to me.  If something horrible happens, sometimes all it means is that something horrible happened, and we must just fit that into our lives now–along with the fact that it has changed us, that we are “other” now.

Maybe someday we can derive meaning from tragedies, but if we can’t, it does not make the tragedy unimportant, it does not mean the tragedy did not transform us.

The most substantial and important bit I gleaned from this story: Grief is difficult on faith, but experiencing grief and feeling “other” does not negate our connection with our faith.  It was easy for Mary’s husband and their community to look at Mary and the children as having separated from their religion because their ordeal was too big and their grief too complex for others to reconcile to the joyfulness of being Christian.

I have experienced this as well–the easy justifications from those around me that I am not “thankful” for the grief I endured because I do not look like it; I am not grieving “correctly” because I am not doing this, that, or whatever.  I’m not always even sure what is expected of me, but it is wrong because it doesn’t fit into the box that they have made for me (not Christianity itself–but some individuals in their own minds).  I am “other” and I don’t belong.  And yet, look at Christ’s grief at Lazarus’s death (who He rose from the dead shortly after), Mary’s grief at Christ’s death, David’s continual cycles of grief and joy (often at once) in the Psalter.  I read the texts of the Church and I see grief and loss.  Everything does not always neatly tie up into a moralistic Aesop’s Fable, or Christian fiction book.

I cannot be a the poster child for handling infant death perfectly and graciously (which, I will be honest, was what was blatantly expected of me, and why I continually disappoint others with my struggles with grief and meaning) any more than Mary Rowlandson could be the shining beacon of exquisitely interpreting God’s movement in her own life (which was also expected of her–and which the book she herself wrote indicates, with much forced interpretations).

Grief is hard, and sometimes things just happen.  And “otherness” can be a lonely road.

Taking things personally

There is a lady in my office who is pregnant.  Normally, this would bother me a little, but because of who it is and because of the way she handles herself, it is absolutely unbearable.

Ever since the first week of November, she has complained CONSTANTLY about this poor little life growing in her.  Before she was pregnant, she complained from time to time about wanting more kids (she has a son with severe ear and respiratory problems; she is an avid smoker, and though I am not BLAMING that fact on her first child’s issues, it is noteworthy).  I have had to hear every single little thing about this baby–and I just live in a closet in a corner that no one visits!  One lady who actually has to work next to here expressed a desire to get a big jar of rubberbands and shoot them at her head throughout the day.  I wanted to tell her that would be fantastic.

Based on the number of doctor’s appointments she has and the amount of information she gives us about this child daily, I assumed she was due in April, May at the latest.  I have been hoping every day she gets put on bedrest because I simply cannot handle dealing with her constant baby monologue.  (I have panic attacks at work sometimes because I feel like I can’t get away from something that is very stressful.)

Today in our staff meeting, someone asked when the baby was due.

I was so shocked, I was nearly sick.

She’s due in July.

Not only does that mean THAT MUCH LONGER that I have to deal with her (unless she gets the blessed bedrest), but her due date is just three and a half weeks before my last baby’s due date (around the time we figured the baby would be born, provided he was early like Seraphim), had he not died a month ago.  That makes her right around 17-18 weeks pregnant.  We’ve had to deal with her since the day she missed her period.  If I were still pregnant, I would definitely still not be telling folks–especially at work!–that I was having a baby.  I was set on 20 weeks, or after.  Probably till I had a baby in my arms, really (although I suppose I might tell my boss a little before then…).

She also sees the same doctor I did.  Which means that doctor saw HER before she was 12 weeks pregnant, but refused to see me.

I could scream.  At this point, the child feels like a personal insult to me on so many different levels.  No one there has EVER asked about my baby, even though I have a picture next to my computer of him because he helps me get through my day.  Even though they knew I was gone for seven weeks.  Even though they knew I was pregnant this time last year.

I need something to change so badly right now.